Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Less Is More

Less can sometimes be more. A scientist or mathematician might dispute that statement, but in the writing world, it's truth.

Beginning writers know that description is important to a story. They understand that emotion is high on the list of necessary items in a good story. So, they sprinkle adjectives and adverbs throughout the story like rose petals thrown by a flower girl at a wedding. They often end up with a flowery, sickeningly sweet, overdone piece of writing.

Take a look at that last sentence I wrote. I used (purposely) three adjectives to describe 'piece of writing.'  It does emphasize but it is also not really necessary. I could have said, They end with an overdone piece of writing. Note that I also left out the adverbs often and up. You, the Reader, got the idea in the second sentence as well as in the first where so much was added.

More examples:  (The bad ones might be found in beginning writers' work and/or in romance novels)

Bad:  Sheila raised her large, oval-shaped, sea-blue eyes toward the gray, stormy, threatening sky.
Better: Sheila gazed at the stormy sky.
The color or shape of her eyes have nothing to do with the approaching storm. And the three adjectives used to describe the sky are quite synonymous. One word to describe it is sufficient.

Bad:  Her sad, broken, and grieving heart broke as she watched the dark, curvaceous, doe-eyed gypsy woman sidle up suggestingly to her former handsome, blond, muscled husband.
Better: Her heart broke as the voluptuous gypsy woman sidled up to her former husband.
More than likely, the reader already knows that the "her" in this sentence is sad and broken-hearted, and they have learned earlier that the husband is a hunk. No need to constantly repeat the same information.

Editors repeatedly advise writers to tighten their writing. Get rid of those many unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and you'll have a stronger story or essay. Less is more

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